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All Whats Rock 11 August 2015
South African six piece Crimson Chrysalis have followed up the success and critical notice their debut received with an eleven-song follow up titled Enraptured. Like the tracks heart on the band’s debut, vocalist Rene van den Berg and the band’s stylish brand of symphonic rock are the defining elements on the new release. It’s interesting how the band has such a spacious and fully realized sound despite a plethora of members. It might be the wont of modern listeners to categorize Crimson Chrysalis as goth or even, God forbid, an emo pop-rock outfit. Such labels help indexing it in a catalog but mean nothing to the music. Crimson Chrysalis’ Enraptured is sophisticated popular music incorporating a variety of musical approaches and voices.
The imagery is certainly in a darker key than “boy meets girl and finds love”. van den Berg’s velvety tone and shimmering piano runs illuminate the opener “Soul Stalker”. There’s a disarming melancholy in the music that never overwhelms the listener but, instead, weaves evocative atmospherics. Symphonic rock is merely a convenient tag; in the end, these tracks stand out for the sensitivity of their treatment rather than notions of sonic grandeur. “Surrender” swirls with carefully orchestrated European-flavored theatricality. van den Berg, in particular, distinguishes herself once again with a wide-ranging and emotive vocal that matches the backing track’s theatricality. “Elegy”, featuring guest star Andrea Casanova, is a much more strident track than the earlier songs with impressively powerful drums, but the band’s command of atmospherics remains strong and van den Berg’s vocal is flexible and responsive to the demands of rougher-edged material.
Classical inclinations dominate “Sacred Vow”, but guitar fireworks power it equally and Crimson Chrysalis comes closest to that hitting that symphonic rock label. van den Berg shows, once again, that she’s up to facing any challenge the materials places before here and does a marvelous job of orchestrating her own phrasing to match the song’s rising and falling action. “Burning Fire with Fire” is easily one of the album’s best tracks thanks to a surprisingly bluesy van den Berg vocal and her obvious chemistry with the album’s second guest star, vocalist Jessica Mercy. “Enlightenment” reins in the band’s taste for the epic and, instead, softer acoustic strains rise to the fore. The guitar playing resists any temptation for showing off and, instead, contributes to the song’s lush and compelling texture. The lyrical content is stronger here than elsewhere on the album thanks to its lean economy and sharp insights, but van den Berg can’t help but draw attention to them thanks to her sensitive and intelligent phrasing.
Crimson Chrysalis hit another home run with “Fear”. The urgent, almost desperate musical tone and the restless shifting between passages approximate the song’s concept well. van den Berg accentuates that through contrast. Her vocal maintains the song’s energy, but gives it distinctly gentler spin. “The Raven” is much more explosive fare than we’re getting before on Enraptured, but it rocks out convincingly and the attitude fits the song well. “Grace” concludes things on a strong songwriting note as Crimson Chrysalis brings together their best lyrical and musical attributes under one tent. This demonstrates their shrewd understanding of how to manipulate dynamics, their grip on atmospherics, love for melody, and their skills of construction in a brief, less than four-minute package. It’s an impressive conclusion to an equally impressive album.
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